Another Thing American Kids Can`t Do…Play Tennis?

In the

mid-1960s
, I played for the

University of Pittsburgh
tennis team. We weren`t very good.
But what a wonderful time we had! And we gained valuable life
experiences along the way.

Flash
forward to this year. Over the

Labor Day
weekend, I watched the

U.S. Open Tennis
tournament`s historic match between losing
American icon

Andre Agassi
and German Benjamin (no relation to Boris)
Becker.

During
play, CBS commentator and former tennis great John McEnroe
mentioned that Becker

played for the Baylor University Bears
while he was in
college.

And
off-handedly, McEnroe asked his partner, veteran sportscaster

Dick Enberg,
how many Americans did he guess play for
Baylor.

Enberg—perhaps
wanting to avoid controversy—responded that like many major
universities, the Baylor tennis squad is well stocked with
foreign-born players.

But I
knew the specific answer to McEnroe`s question: there are
zero (0) Americans on the Baylor tennis team!

Baylor`s
2006-2007

varsity tennis roster
consists of eight players, two
Germans, a

Russian
, an Australian, a Czech, a Hungarian, a Slovenian
and a Brit. (Contact Baylor Athletic Director Ian McCaw and
Tennis Coach Matt Knoll

here
.)

The
presence of foreign players, many of them semi-pros in their
native country and several years older than the average college
student, is not a secret in the tennis community.

But this
abuse of the process, initiated with an

F-1 student visa
, is little known by casual sporting fans.

And its

impact on American kids
who are also outstanding players and
would love to have the same opportunity is rarely, if ever,
considered.

Of the
top 125 players ranked by the Intercollegiate Tennis
Association, about

90 are foreign-born
.

I can`t
give you more specific information because, no accident I`m
sure, many players list their hometowns, home countries, birth
dates and major courses of study as

N/A
.

How
common vital statistics are “not available” is a mystery
since that information absolutely must be on the student`s
application and

passport
. Perhaps the players and their universities have
something to hide?

Since
2001, every ITA National Player of the Year, has been

foreign-born:
2006,
Benjamin
Kohlloeffel
, UCLA, Germany; 2005,

Benedikt Dorsch,
Baylor University, Germany; 2004;

Amer Delic,
University of Illinois, 2003,

Bosnia
and 2001-2002 Matias Boeker, University of Georgia,
Argentina.

Pretty
good schools, don`t you agree? Wouldn`t it be nice if your
tennis-playing child could compete for a scholarship and a spot
on one of those prestigious teams?

That`s
not likely to happen given tennis` slide into the
win-at-all-costs mentality.

Here`s
how Baylor Coach Knoll sees it:


“But when we start going head
to head with

Duke
,

Stanford
and

UCLA
… we can`t beat them for these kids. So do we let Duke
beat our brains in because we`re taking third-tier Americans
while they`re picking from the first tier? Or do we get
first-tier (foreign) kids and try to beat them? What would you
do?”
[Baylor
Enjoys Success With Foreign Athletes
, by Jason King, Kansas City Star, June 14, 2006]

I spoke with a former
California college tennis star and coach who has been fighting
the

NCAA
for years to get a resolution so that young Americans
could have a fair shot at these great opportunities.

Here`s what he told me:

Originally, the
coaches wanted to limit the number of foreign players per team.
But our lawyers said it would kick in legal issues and we would
not be able to do it without risking lawsuits.
[JG note:

Doubtful. No university coach has to
justify to anyone


which players he ultimately selects

for his team
.]

“We spent years
with NCAA trying to get stricter rules and better compliance. In
brief, both coaches and

foreign players
found loopholes and ways around the rules…..

“And…. there
is still constant disagreement whether recruited international
players are amateur or pro. One university NCAA compliance
officer (e-mail the NCAA public relations

office
) may say they are pro and can`t be recruited—yet same
kid will show up playing for another school.

“Foreign kids
come knocking on coach`s doors—free education and a way to keep
playing tennis. Also coaches now go to Europe and all over the
globe to recruit. The rest of world has no

organized college sports
. International kids decide to go
pro at age 16. If they haven`t made it by 21, they look to U.S.
scholarships.”

Sounds like there`s no

scholarship
in the offing for your youngster—boy or girl,
since the same foreign-player obstacle exists in collegiate
women`s tennis.

Not only are Americans shut out of academic
benefits, but the foreign-born player may stay on after he gets
his taxpayer subsidized university degree to beat up on your kid
again in the job market.

The overseas player who starts out with a
non-immigrant F-1 student visa often ends up—either by

overstaying
,

marrying an American
or getting a savvy

immigration lawyer
—becoming a permanent resident and thus a
candidate for solid jobs.

Ask yourself this: your kid and Mr.
UCLA/International Tennis star both interview for a fast-track
job at

Citibank
. Who gets employed?

I view the loss of college tennis innocence
with particular sadness.

When I played on the University of
Pittsburgh team, no one would have had to travel to Argentina to
find better players. There were plenty of them right across the
state line in Ohio.

Since tennis wasn`t a major sport at Pitt,
we didn`t get scholarships. We got a free pass to the school

cafeteria
for three months and a racquet.

Each March, we shoveled snow off the courts
to practice whenever the weather permitted. We were gearing up
for our annual April trip south where we played against the

United States Naval Academy
,

Georgetown
and major universities in North Carolina and
Florida.

We got hammered at every stop, of course.
But at least we took our pounding from fellow Americans.

I learned that college tennis is a team
sport. Gloating was not permitted. If you won your match but the
team lost, that`s a bad day.

Conversely, if you lost but the team won,
then all was well.

I found out how to cope with adversity. In
our collegiate matches, players called their own lines. Sooner
or later, I`d meet up with a cheater—he called every close shot
in his favor. But I realized that I gained nothing by

blowing my stack.
I had to figure out another way to win.
And if I couldn`t…no whining. No one wants to hear it.

Are these better lessons for a kid than to
learn that his university is willing to recruit halfway around
the world so it can win tennis matches?

In

Texas
,

California
and

Georgia
and throughout the nation, there are so many gifted
high school players that any university could field an
outstanding team year after year.

Maybe the team will never be above .500.
Maybe it will never beat the likes of Baylor who stretch the
rules to fulfill its lust to win

But important principles more important
than winning should be encouraged.

On the top of my

values
list is promoting American ideals through the skills
and talents of young—wait for it— American athletes.

Joe
Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has
been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column
is exclusive to VDARE.COM.